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Randomized Studies: Keep or Ditch?

Should we eliminate randomized field trials in education? That's the provocative question that Harvard professor Paul Peterson and Fordham Institute scholar Chester Finn are debating in a new podcast issued earlier this week by Education Next.

As you know, randomized field trials are experiments in which the subjects are randomly assigned to either a treatment group or one that goes about business as usual. Medicine has been making extensive use of this kind of research methodology for decades, but interest in these kinds of experiments in education is more recent. The problem is that many of the education experiments tried so far are finding no effects.

As might be expected, Peterson and Finn, early supporters of more-rigorous studies in education, come down on the side of continuing the emphasis in the field on randomized research. Among their points:

1) Randomized field trials in medicine also yield no effects much of the time and only recently have begun to accumulate a scientifically defensible body of knowledge on treatments that work; and
2) Other forms of evaluation may not be much better.

Here is a link to the podcast: http://educationnext.org/studies-find-no-effects/

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